Brian Dawkins was an absolute beast when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles—he covered well, and hit hard enough to blow up any receiver. But above anything else, Dawkins was the unquestioned leader of the Eagles on the defensive side of the ball.
He started his career in Philly, played 13 years there and was named to the Pro Bowl seven times while an Eagle. All his wonderful play led to him not only being one of the most feared safeties in the modern game, but Dawkins also became a huge fan favorite in the City of Brotherly Love (which can show their hate for the Eagles at times).
But really, B. Dawk’s return to Philly is a less significant story line among many good ones in this Christmas weekend game—most notably pending playoff positioning for both teams.
For the Eagles, a win against the Broncos and a Cowboys loss means they would clinch the NFC East and secure a Wild Card round home game. Beyond that, while the Saints (13-1) have basically sewn up home field throughout the playoffs, Philly could still take home field up to the NFC Championship game with two wins and a Minnesota loss.
For the Broncos, the game is more meaningful than that, as Denver must win both their last two games to secure a playoff spot in this year’s muddled AFC. In fact, the Broncos could actually clinch a playoff position with a win and losses by four of the 7-7 teams (JAX, MIA, NYJ, and PIT). Either way though, this game is the biggest of the season for Denver—a definite must-win if they want to make the playoffs this year.
The Broncos are coming off two tough losses in a row that have made their last two must-wins, meaning the playoffs start today if the Broncos want to still be playing in two weeks.
Of course, as the season rolls into Week 15 every team in the NFL is dealing with injuries and that includes the Eagles and Broncos.
Philly will likely be without the services of Michael Vick and safety Quintin Demps, as they are both listed as questionable. But, veteran running back/kick returner Brian Westbrook has been cleared to come back and play for the first time since Nov. 15, even though he will play in a limited role only.
For Denver, wide receiver/kick returner Eddie Royal will miss the contest due to his neck strain, and fullback Spencer Larsen is out as well. Royal has been underutilized in 2009, with only 37 receptions and zero touchdowns, but his 23.9 yards per return will definitely be missed. Fan favorite Peyton Hillis will step in for Larsen, but will still likely not see many chances in the offense since Josh McDaniels uses the fullback almost solely as a blocker.
The last huge storyline of this game is coaching, and there is a massive contrast when these two teams are compared.
The Eagles have one of the best coaches in the NFL leading their team in Andy Reid. Reid’s Eagles own 107 regular season wins with a .611 winning percentage—second best only to Bill Belichick. Reid is the commander of his team, the seasoned vet with five NFC Championship appearances, the fearless leader of a team that has no fear in him.
On the other hand, the Broncos head man is Josh McDaniels in his first year leading a team. McDaniels and Denver went 6-0 to start the season, but only 2-6 since—and most of the onus lies on coaching. In large losses to AFC opponents Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, the offense was mediocre at best and pathetic at worst. Last week against the Raiders, McDaniels had many coaching blunders, multiple mistakes that cost the Broncos valuable points.
If Denver hopes to win this game, and if McDaniels wants to avoid his first losing season in his football life (he told Woody Paige preseason), then he’s got to be on top of his coaching game today.
All in all, the Broncos task of beating a strong NFC team in the Eagles in Philadelphia today is a tough one to say the least, but nothing is impossible in the NFL. Denver can beat the Eagles, and they must to stay afloat in the AFC playoff hunt. One thing’s for sure, all of Denver will tune in to see what happens at 2:15 MT today.